OPINION: Decisions made by the Independent Hearings Panel in relation to the District Plan have been in the news again in the last week.
It’s a complex beast to navigate. Even as a trained lawyer, it’s taken me a while to read and understand all of the relevant material.
I have been looking into this issue since July when it first hit the media.
There is no way to easily explain what the problem is.
So this is as simplified as I can make it.
The District Plan has several types of activity: permitted, controlled, restricted discretionary, non-complying and prohibited.
Permitted activities don’t require a resource consent and prohibited activities are just that, prohibited. Everything else requires a resource consent.
This issue is all about which type of activity applies to a proposed building of or extension to a residential unit in a High Flood Hazard Management Area, where that hazard is associated with sea level rise.
City council evidence to the Independent Hearings Panel was that it should be “non-complying”; the Panel decided it should be “restricted discretionary.”
Sitting over the top of these rules is a policy that gives us some high-level guidance for the overall treatment of activities in all areas where there is a high flood hazard.
The “restricted discretionary” rule was written into decision 53.
However there was no change made to the policy and without a matching change to the policy, it becomes arguable whether the District Plan gives full effect to what the Independent Hearings Panel decided.
Changing the District Plan under the current arrangements is not easy, but that is what I am determined to do.
Even if we insert the “missing” policy, people will still have to apply for a resource consent, but at least the policy framework for granting a consent will be clear.
In the meantime, our consenting staff are working hard to help people navigate their way through this complex process.
It is possible to get a resource consent to build in these areas; I’m advised that 31 have been granted for residential dwellings since November 2016.
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